on February 15, 2005
This season saw the end of a bright but sadly short-lived era. The West Wing was THE show to watch for four glorious years. There are those out there who might say that the show somehow lost steam in the final year of the Sorkin era, but I say unto you, listen not to them. When a highly regarded show undergoes (or is about to undergo) a major change, it is nitpicked to a great extent, and some people feel compelled to invent problems with it, for whatever reason. It is fortunate for the non-crazy, then, that this year proved so able to produce challenging, powerful drama. This season opens with presidential politics in full swing, President Bartlet (Martin Sheen) campaigning for a second term facing a suspiciously Dubya-looking Republican contender portrayed by James Brolin (okay, he's more like a Bush caricature). After several great campaign-themed episodes at the season's beginning, politics-as-unusual would once again turn up in the halls of power at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.
This season's biggest change was Rob Lowe's departure from the show, but that was alright, because we got the super-talented Joshua Malina to replace him. We met Toby's and CJ's dads in "Holy Night" and "The Long Goodbye", respectively. The former continues in the show's tradition of powerful, moving Christmas episodes, the latter is a greatly underrated family drama centering around CJ and her Alzheimer's-stricken father. These episodes pack plenty of emotional power, and there were other great episodes like "20 Hours in America," which tracked Josh, Toby and Donna through Indiana after they lost the motorcade, and "Life on Mars," which led to the departure of John Hoynes as Vice President, thanks to Matthew Perry's guest turn as Joe Quincy. These episodes, in addition to the pulse-pounding final two shows of the season, were only a few of a memorable and consistent year of television that called to mind the show's first season--no grand arcs, just stories and characters and the delightful political mess the White House staff would sort through on a weekly basis. This season brought the series back to its roots and was an appropriate send-off for one of the medium's masters, although it's sad indeed that the send-off in question was needed in the first place. Where have you gone, Aaron?
on March 4, 2005
First of all, I'm a political science/history major and I'll still be the first to admit that I was a bit sceptical of this series. I just didn't think that they could make this show as interesting, informative, and especially funny as it ended up being. After watching about the first disk of the series, I was hooked and it had become my favorite show. The first season just blew my mind. I've now watched the rest of them, and they haven't let up a bit.
This is anything but watching an hour of Capital Hill voting on CNN, though. There's an incredible cast including Bradley Whitford, Allison Janney, Martin Sheen, Rob Lowe who take you into the show and the world of politics. It's nowhere near stuffy; full of humor, love interests, and interesting information. From the first frame of the episode, you'll be glued to the TV. If you're interested in politics, or even if you're not, give this series a chance. You won't be sorry you did.
Martin Sheen is my President.
on April 1, 2005
Since they don't list the eps in the technical details, here you go:
01 - 20 Hours in America (1)
02 - 20 Hours in America (2)
03 - College Kids
04 - The Red Mass
05 - Debate Camp
06 - Game On
07 - Election Night
08 - Process Stories
09 - Swiss Diplomacy
10 - Arctic Radar
11 - Holy Night
12 - Guns Not Butter
13 - The Long Goodbye
14 - Inauguration (1)
15 - Inauguration (2): Over There
16 - The California 47th
17 - Red Haven's on Fire
18 - Privateers
19 - Angel Maintenance
20 - Evidence of Things Not Seen
21 - Life On Mars
22 - Commencement
23 - Twenty Five
As far as a review, I don't have anything more eloquent to write than what has already been written, so I'll just agree with the reviews that call this one of the greatest seasons of one of the greatest series ever created.
I also wanted to chime in on the debate of seasons five and six. I'll certainly stipulate to the fact that season five was awkward, but I'm very glad I stuck with the show because season six has been quite impressive in my opinion. As great as the Sorkin seasons? No, I wouldn't say that, but maybe as good as anything else available on TV this year (except reruns of seasons one thru four!) :)
on April 8, 2005
The Special Features are on disk 6!
1) Put in Disk 6
2) Click "Special Features"
3) Next to "Main Menu" is this symbol ">" click on it and you got em!
Talk about non-intuitive design. Yeesh.
I still don't completely understand what went on with creators Aaron Sorkin and Tom Schlamme leaving the West Wing after this season, but the Sorkin touch can still be seen and heard and felt on many of the episodes in this Fourth Season.
The quality is more uneven this year - in a documentary included in the "Season One" collection, Mr. Sorkin said that they tried to make EVERY episode as good as their "best" one, and the best episodes this year meet that criteria. There are 4 or 5 that are a little slower, though, including one where essentially no suspense is generated for an entire episode because a landing gear light doesn't come on on Air Force One.
The high points are very high, though, and include the annual Christmas episode (strong in EVERY season of this multiple-emmy winning show). Another high point comes when newcomer Will Bailey talks the President into a new foreign policy that includes military intervention for humanitarian reasons. (The fictional nation of Kundu serves as a genocide reminder of the World's failure to intervene in Rwanda). Speaking of Will Bailey - he is ably played by Josh Malina, and it must have been daunting to step in Rob Lowe's shoes and Sam Seaborn's office. His initial encounters with President Bartlet remind us that many people would likely become tongue-tied when first standing in the oval office.
The worst episodes are good television - the best episodes make me glad to be an American and a Human Being.
Absolutely worth the price.
on March 30, 2005
The fourth season of the West Wing is outstanding, from the re-election campaign at the beginning to the President's personal crisis at the end. Watch for a couple of great episodes: "Debate Camp" shows the President and his staff preparing for the one and only debate with his Republican challenger, Robert Ritchie, and "Game On", which may actually be the best episode of the season, with Bartlet's annihilation of Ritchie in the debate. Savor this season, folks, because it's the last truly great one.
A lot of people have been blasting the 5th and 6th seasons here, and I understand why. When you've seen what we've seen in 1-4, the other two are just ordinary television. John Wells has taken this amazing display of great theater and reduced it to what ER became after a few years: ho-hum melodrama. Beloved characters have lost all of their depth now, without Aaron Sorkin writing incredible dialogue. Some characters are unrecognizable now.
And a P.S. to the guy who called Allison Janney the worst actor on the show: C.J. Cregg, in the first four seasons, is a delightfully neurotic, wonderfully funny and honest character. And Janney is a treat to watch. There's only so much that can be done when the writing goes south.
is what I am going through with the cancellation of what I consider the finest series in television history.
This one introduces Lilly Tomlin as one of the interviewees for the job of President's secretary to replace Mrs. Landingham. It is captivating in its sharp wit and dialogue. I kept watching it over and over again.
I don't collect many DVD's or videocassettes anymore because I just didn't watch them. The West Wing is one of the few sets that you have to keep because you know they are classic.
You won't be disappointed with this one. Even my republican friends admit that it is a phenomenal series, and this was a phenomenal year.
David Dweck wants a dwink of wa-wa. (You'll have to see it to figure that one out.)
on February 14, 2005
This is the fourth and last season of 'West Wing' with Aaron Sorkin at the helm as head writer and guiding light behind the show. It is also (oddly enough!) the last season of this show that is worth purchasing. NBC made the idiotic decision, which only corporate network types could love, to drop Sorkin, along with Thomas Schlamme (another guiding force behind the show), at the end of the season. And boy does it show in the the shlock that has since appeared on TV in seasons 5 and 6.
The season divides into three basic parts: finishing up the election; the start of Bartlet's second term and Sam Seaborn's run for Congress; and the final descent into chaos that signals Sorkin's farewell to the show. While no episodes stand out as being brilliant gems -- such as Season 1's "In Excelsis Deo" and "Take This Sabbeth Day," Season 2's "In the Shadow of 2 Gunmen" and "Noel," or Season 3's "Bartlet for America" and "Posse Comitatus" -- there are far fewer outright clunkers in Season 4 than any previous season. The only dud is the abysmal "Long Goodbye," which was not written by Sorkin and focuses solely on CJ out of the White House (although by comparison, it's better than almost anything in Season 5).
The first season not to pick up from a cliffhanger the previous spring, the fourth season starts by dropping viewers into the midst of the Bartlet re-election campaign with the two-parter "20 Hours in America" that feels a little too much like "Trains, Planes, and Automobiles."
From this slightly less peppy start to the season than usual, however, the shows' remaining campaign episodes pick up speed and are among the snappiest and most tightly paced of the entire series. Especially enjoyable are "Debate Camp," which witnesses the always welcome return of pollster Joey Lucas (delightfully played by Marlee Matlin), and "Game On," Bartlet's one and only debate with his Republican challenger (ably played by James Brolin).
The season also weaves in several longer-term plotlines more successfully than usual, including:
- Hiring a replacement for the President's deceased secretary, Dolores Landingham, with the flightly Deborah Fiderer (the always entertaining Lily Tomlin);
- The aftermath of the President's decision at the end of Season 3 to have a Qumari political leader assassinated due to his connection with terrorists;
- and Donna's latest attempt to find love amongst Republican men (in this case a muted, yet fine performance by Christian Slater).
Season 4 also says farewell to Sam Seaborn (and Rob Lowe) through his improbable run for Congress, which also introduces political operative Will Bailey (Josh Molina, Lowe's eventual replacement on the show, who has appeared in every project ever written by Aaron Sorkin). This storyline provides the focus of the middle third of the season, with a series of comic and poignant adventures during Sam's campaign that provide a fitting send-off to one of the series' best, if underused, characters (marred only by the failure to explain what happened to Sam after he loses his election!). Standouts amongst these episodes include "California 47th" and "Red Haven's On Fire."
The final third of the season builds up speed at an incredible pace, leading to a denouement that in any context but Sorkin's departure from the show would be absurd. But in that context, they provide a shocking conclusion to his tenure and leave the show (and Bartlet's world) in absolute chaos (a fitting way to tell off the NBC execs). In short order: Matthew Perry (in a performance that indicates he's slightly out of his depth) becomes a new White House Counsel; Vice President Hoynes resigns; Zoey Bartlet is kidnapped; and President Bartlet temporarily removes himself from office, leaving a fearsome John Goodman as the new President Glenallen Walken. Yow!
Too bad this series couldn't have just ended altogether and gone out on a graceful note after four years. But if it had to go on without Sorkin and Schlamme, than at least there was this clear demarcation that allows true fans to break off now and not be duped into enduring later seasons of painful debiltation for what was once one of the best shows on network television. Definitely finish your West Wing DVD purchases with this season!
on July 17, 2014
I started watching this TV series with my Amazon Prime account. It was one of the many tv shows that are free with a Prime membership. I am halfway through Season 4, and Amazon took it off the list and is now trying to charge me for the episodes I wish to watch. This is very frustrating. I am now watching it on Netflix for free. I'm not sure I will use Amazon Prime TV series anymore.
on December 9, 2005
On first viewing, this was my favourite season of the West Wing. Each show had something that kept your interest and held it through the commercial breaks, and that same feeling of "needing" to know what happens next carried between shows as well. True, there are a number of "soap opera" developments in this season: the clash between Charlie and Jean-Paul (Zoey's French boyfriend), Toby's ex-wife's pregnancy, etc. Thankfully they are incorporated into the fabric of the political commentary of the show: Andy's single-Mom pregnancy makes her a target for the Christian Right, and Zoey's choice in a boyfriend leads to the spectacular cliffhanger.
For my money, the Season 4 cliffhanger is the best, even better than the assassination attempt after Season 1. It is spun out over several shows, and the tension builds to an almost unbearable level. The payoff in Season 5 is not up to the challenge, unfortunately, perhaps because of the staff turnover between the two seasons. There are a number of good guest stars, some neat story ideas, and of course, the President's butt-kicking of Sen. Ritchie in the debate and the election. The season is solid or better every single episode.
Unfortunately, this season also bids adieu to Rob Lowe, Aaron Sorkin, and Tommy Schlamme. Rob Lowe's departure is especially problematic in a continuity sense: much as Mandy (the spin doctor) vanishes into thin air between the Season 1 cliffhanger and the Season 2 premier, so too does Sam Seaborn dissappear into the void of Orange County when running for Congress. One episode, he's got Toby and CJ running his campaign, the next show everyone (except Sam) is back in the West Wing with no mention of the outcome of the election. Are we supposed to believe that (a) he won the election in spite of being 10 points down the previous episode or (b) he was not offered his old job at the White House back despite the President's assurance? It is cowardly of Sorkin and Schlamme to leave the question open-ended just because the actor wanted to leave the show.
As usual, there are few extras on this DVD - 3 commentaries, a couple short featurettes, and three deleted scenes (about 5-8 minutes total time on the deleted scenes). Even more annoying is the lack of an episode guide insert in the package - to determine what episodes are on which discs required putting the disc in! Very amateur.